Some thoughts on Johannine Theology from IVP Academic

Rainbow, Paul. Johannine Theology The Gospel, the Epistles and the Apocalypse. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014. 496. Print.

It’s true that Paul in recent years has been getting way more views on his Facebook page than John has. Where did the interest in this apostle go? To be sure Paul speaks of such loft issues as justification by faith or union with Christ but where else can we read about God becoming a man and beckoning wicked sinners to come and lay their lives at his feet if not in John? This most unappreciated apostle holds the keys to our understanding of the context which Paul would have operated in and is an extensive look into the gospel of grace which Jesus has bestowed on those whom God has called.

What struck me about this volume is that the theology of this most beloved disciple is couched in the idea of the trinity and everything that flows therein. Rainbow writes from that center point and the theology of John really falls into place as one takes a survey of the three persons of the Godhead.

The present volume sets forth the Johannine theology according to the relations among the divine person (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and the world made of its various constituents. This is not the only possible way to lay out the matter. Proposals for how to do biblical theology, and Johannine theology in particular, are manifold.

As the author leads us through the gospels the theology clearly flows from a complex Trinitarian understanding. The books which are so called by this apostles name have a very warm and pastoral tone and then comes the apocalyptic literature I got a little lost in the wordiness presented in these chapters. I also got left behind by some of the exegesis, which I appreciate, but am unable to follow. The odd little Hebrew and Greek characters mean nothing to me and so, unfortunately, I gloss over those portions.

downloadOverall this is a wonderful study as the author tries to securely place the central themes in John squarely in the Trinity. I’ve not read many works on the theology of John because, as I stated, my mind and vision are full of Pauline theology and the central themes which are trying to be worked out there. That being said, this study was a good beginning volume for me though there were sections which were a bit over my head. I appreciate the mental capacity it takes to pen such a volume and the years of study it takes to know a man so intimately that you write a book about his thought life.

The flow of the text is highly readable and the author doesn’t jump around from subject to subject without the reader feeling some sort of closure on the previous subject. Though the themes in John are raised more than once Rainbow is able to hold all these in limbo for the reader while he engages both the prominent and not so prominent ideas. We need more books like this which take strange and unexplored areas of the biblical record and shine some light on them for the rest of us. This is definitely a volume worth picking up if at any point you’ve read the books of John and wondered, “What does that mean?”


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